Researchers at Oregon State University have come up with novel drug delivery system that could aid in the treatment of ectopic pregnancies. The new system is described in a recent article published in the journal Small.
Ectopic pregnancies occur when an egg becomes fertilized but is implanted outside of the uterus; in most cases, the egg implants somewhere in the fallopian tube. While these pregnancies account for a small fraction of all pregnancies, an ectopic pregnancy can be life threatening. As the fertilized egg develops and grows, it can cause the fallopian tube to eventually burst, which becomes a medical emergency.
Fortunately, ectopic pregnancies can be caught fairly early in a pregnancy, reducing the risks of life-threatening complications. Specifically, the drug methotrexate is used to treat these types of pregnancies. It works by preventing embryonic cells from growing and multiply. Unfortunately, methotrexate comes with its own set of problems; chiefly, it can cause a range of unpleasant side effects. Similar to the side effects that cancer patients might experience from chemotherapy, methotrexate isn’t a “selective” or “precise” drug. It can’t tell the difference between the cells it’s supposed to target and healthy cells, which can lead to serious side effects.
To address this issue, researchers have developed a new system that can help overcome the problem of side effects. Specifically, the system can deliver a payload of the drug methotrexate directly to the site it needs to be, allowing for clinicians to use smaller doses of the drug, thereby preventing serious side effects.
Specifically, the system uses a polymersome, a type of vesicle to help deliver drugs to the location in question. Then, once there, the polymersomes, a type of nanoparticle, react with the body around them to know when and where to deliver their dose of methotrexate. That is, they are responsive to the environment they are in. Specifically, these polymersomes are sensitive to the presence of a type of placental cell called glutathione. Once these cells are sensed, the system will allow for the release of the drug.